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Safety tips for single women
Dr Diwan Rahul Nanda
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March 16, 2006

How's this for frightening statistics: In India, a woman is molested every 26 minutes. A woman is raped every 34 minutes. There's one being sexually harassed every 42 minutes, another being kidnapped every 43 minutes. One woman is killed every 93 minutes. And these are just the reported cases!

Unfortunately, ignoring personal safety and security is a big mistake most women make.

Incorporating these safety tips should help.

Safety at home

Most people actually make it easy for burglars to work, but you can reduce the chance of becoming a target by using a little extra care and thought about the security of your home, apartment and neighbourhood.

~ Get new locks or have the tumblers reset when you move into a previously occupied dwelling. A locksmith should be able to do this for you.

~ Don't hide a key outside the door, under mats, flowerpots or under rocks. If you want extra keys nearby, leave one with a trusted neighbour.

~ Make sure you have good, safe locks on all doors. Use auxiliary dead bolt locks on all exterior doors and make sure they are installed properly. Lock all doors when you go out, even if it's for just a minute!

~ Install an alarm that can detect entry or smoke.

~ Be cautious when strangers enter your home. Use a peephole or look through a window to check. If you must talk to a stranger, never open the door wide. If you have a security chain attached, only open as far as it will allow.

~ Report broken streetlights in your neighbourhood. Well-lit areas discourage burglars.

~ Do not leave your house and car keys together with attendants at public parking lots. Your house key can be quickly duplicated and your address obtained from your plate number.

~ Don't give information to strangers over the telephone. On wrong number calls, don't give the caller your number. Report continued wrong calls to the telephone company.

~ Don't give your computer password or other pertinent information to others.

~ If possible, use metal grillwork on entrance doors.

~ Report any strangers loitering in your neighbourhood or people asking vague questions about your neighbours.

~ Store ladders inside. If you can't, lock them up securely somewhere else. Suggest your neighbours follow this rule as well.

~ Use lights effectively, leave several on in different areas of the house when you go out.

~  A safe inexpensive window lock can also be made.

~ Leave a radio playing quietly when you go out to give the impression that someone is at home.

~ Vary your routine. If you follow the same routine week in and week out, a would-be burglar could watch your movements.

~ If your phone is attached to an answering machine, make sure your message does not give the impression to a caller that you are not at home. Make sure your phone does not continue to ring and ring, giving an indication that you are not at home.

~ Remove your name and address from any magazines or papers before discarding them.

~ Shred all papers that contain pertinent information about you and members of your family.

~ Single women should never place their full name in a mailbox -- your first and middle initial may be used, not 'Miss,' 'Ms' or 'Mrs'.

~ Keep few valuables in your apartment.

~ Keep your mailbox empty. If you are away, arrange with a neighbour or building manager to have all mail taken out.

~ Check references of maids, cleaning women or anyone else who may have to work inside your apartment while you are away from it.

~ A dog can often prevent a burglary. Place a 'Beware of dog' sign in your windows.

If you don't have a dog, purchase a heavy-duty dog chain, a large dog collar and dog dish. Place all three items in plain sight where a would-be burglar can see them.

In your car and parking lots

~ Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating or working and just sit working on their chequebooks or making a list, etc. Do not do this!

~ Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. Check under the car as well.

~ While driving alone, lock yourself in. Do not give lifts.

~ Better have your tank full during the day. Never even think of stopping at a gas station alone at night or on the outskirts of the city.

~ If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. You could be attacked/ pulled into the van when you are attempting to get into your cars.

~ Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest to your car, you may want to walk back and get a colleague/ guard/ policeman to walk you back out.

~ Keep a pencil and paper in your car. If you see a prowling car in your neighbourhood, take down the license number. Ask your children to be alert for suspicious vehicles.

~ Become familiar with your neighbours' cars. Any car that does not belong in your neighbourhood should be considered a possible suspect.

Better safe than sorry

~ Always take the elevator instead of the stairs. Stairwells are horrible places to be alone.

~ Do not get into an elevator if there is someone it in with whom you are not comfortable.

~ Do not stand in the corners of the elevator, be near the front by the doors, ready to get off.

~ Women are always very sympathetic. Do not help a handicapped man or someone asking for an address on a lonely street. It sounds rude, but you never know.

~ Continuous eve-teasing by locals should be notified to the police.

~ If stalked, walk to the local police station. Change direction of walking and never enter a lonely area.

~ Always keep your distance when walking past strangers on the street or in dark areas.

~ Get a cell phone. Keep it charged.

~ If you are walking alone in the dark or in a lonely area, and you find someone stalking you, scream 'fire' and not 'help'. People don't want to get involved when people yell 'help' but 'fire' draws attention because people are nosy. Then, run!

~ Offending phone calls from an ex-boyfriend should be clearly avoided. Be polite and firm. If he doesn't stop, report it to the police.

~ Avoid travelling by train after normal working hours.

At social events

~ Young women in dating situations should never leave drinks unattended. A 'date rape' drug can be easily slipped into a glass. When returning from the dance floor or restroom, get a new drink from the bartender.

~ When making plans to go out for the first time, consider meet your date at a public place. Also, let someone know whom you are meeting and where you are going.

~ While dating online, do not, under any circumstance, reveal any personally identifiable information in your profile, personal ads, or private e-mails. Use only the communication tools provided by your dating service or chat rooms.

Use your judgement here.

When you e-mail in private, you may want to consider using an anonymous e-mail account at a free site.

Take your time to establish communication and move at your own pace.

Be careful with your email signatures. They sometimes include phone numbers and addresses.

~ Remember, you are in control. No one should pressurise you into revealing anything about yourself that you want to keep private. Anyone who does is not respecting your boundaries and is probably not worth contacting any further.

While exercising outdoors

~ The most important thing you can do is stay in well-travelled residential areas. Avoid isolated areas.

~ Never wear headphones while walking or jogging outside. It not only increases the likelihood that you will not hear someone approach from behind, but doing so sends a clear message to the outside world that you are not attuned to your surroundings and hence vulnerable.

~ Always assume hostile intent from strangers and keep your distance. Remember, many attacks are preceded by one of these three questions: 'May I use your phone?', 'What time is it?' and 'Do you know how to get to...?'

Other things to do

~ The eyes are the most vulnerable part of the body. Poke the attacked there and you have possibly your only window of opportunity to escape.

~ Aim for the groin area. A hard kick or a knee jammed into your attacker's groin will temporarily leave him unable to attack you.

~ The neck is also a vulnerable spot, but have you know where to grip and you have the strength to cut off his breath.

~ The last place is the knees. Everyone's knees are vulnerable and a swift kick here will get anyone down.

~ Take a self-defence course and carry pepper spray if you wish, but don't let either give you a false sense of security. Better to avoid areas where an attack can take place.

~ Don't depend on a dog to protect you all the time. If you are single and have a dog, let it be trained professionally to defend you.

~ If someone points a gun at you and demands that you get in a car, don't! Few criminals can shoot accurately at a moving target, so you are less likely to be injured while running away.

~ Finally, remember: Assuming that none of this will ever happen to you is ridiculous. No one expects it, but we must be aware and prepared.

Dr Diwan Rahul Nanda is chairman and MD, Topsgrup. Tospgrup is India's first and only security organisation to be accredited with the coveted ISO 9001:2000 certification.

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